Lack of support for a common etiology in Johne's disease of animals and Crohn's disease in humans

Inflamm Bowel Dis. 1999 Aug;5(3):183-91. doi: 10.1097/00054725-199908000-00007.


The superficial similarity of Johne's disease to Crohn's disease led to the hypothesis that, like the former. Crohn's disease was caused by Mycobacterium paratuberculosis. Detailed pathologic comparisons, however, reveal little similarity between these two entities, including the lack of important extraintestinal manifestations. Attempts to recover M. paratuberculosis by culture have only rarely succeeded and the significance of spheroplasts that appear more frequently on culture is seriously in question. Five immunocytochemistry studies have failed to find mycobacterial antigens in diseased tissues and the five most recent polymerase chain reaction (PCR) attempts to find genomic evidence of M. paratuberculosis were uniformly negative. Numerous serologic studies failed to demonstrate antibody to M. paratuberculosis and attempts to show cell-mediated immunity were also unrewarding. Inoculation of numerous experimental animals with Crohn's disease tissue has failed to induce Johne's disease, and inoculation of various animal species with M. paratuberculosis has equally failed to result in Crohn's disease. Controlled studies of the treatment of Crohn's disease with antimycobacterial agents have generally resulted in no improvement, and most studies that have shown a positive response are either uncontrolled or include broad-spectrum antibiotics that may be acting on pathogens other than mycobacteria. Finally, although Johne's disease is common in farm animals, and infected animals shed M. paratuberculosis in large numbers, no record of zoonotic transmission has been recorded.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Crohn Disease / etiology*
  • Crohn Disease / microbiology
  • Crohn Disease / pathology
  • Humans
  • Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis*
  • Paratuberculosis* / etiology
  • Paratuberculosis* / pathology